Adam Schiff visits John Burroughs High School students

U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff speaks with John Burroughs High School students in the library on Thursday, February 23, 2012. The event for the school was hosted by JSA, Junior State of America, a group for students interested in politics, government, foreign affairs, law and education. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

In a meeting of present-day and future leaders, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) made a pit stop at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Thursday where he debriefed students on the federal deficit, Afghanistan and the political climate in Washington D.C.

Schiff was on campus as a guest of the school’s Junior State of America chapter, which seeks to strengthen American democracy by educating and engaging youth in the workings of government.

During the last year, members have attended a Burbank Historical Commission and board of education meetings, said faculty advisor David Knatcal, and next month they will welcome Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich to campus.

“We have an amazing group this year, and they wanted to get involved,” Knatcal said. “Our whole mission is about promoting democracy and involvement.”

The visit from Schiff came after sophomore and Junior State of America member Zac Watson, 16, called his office to extend the invitation.

“This is my first time meeting a congressman, I am glad it was Congressman Schiff,” Zac said.

Among the most challenging domestic issues currently being scrutinized in Washington are healthcare, immigration and the federal deficit, Schiff told his audience of about 100 students.

“All of you are going to end up paying the bill we are ringing up now if we don’t pay it ourselves,” Schiff said. “We are working to try and balance our budget... There is less to invest right now, we are in the process more of [looking at] what are we going to cut than what are we going to spend.”

Pressing international issues include the change of leadership in North Korea and rising tensions with Iran, Schiff said. He also addressed the forthcoming military drawdown in Afghanistan, as well as the instability of the civilian government that will be left behind.

The congressman told students that he would continue to press the United States government to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide — he introduced such a resolution in 2007, but has yet to get it passed.

“We have to be willing to recognize and speak truthfully and plainly about genocide wherever and whenever it occurs,” Schiff said. “I don’t think we can pick and choose.”

When asked what advice he had for young people who aspire to elected office, Schiff encouraged students to pursue their goals despite naysayers and setbacks.

“I ran and lost,” Schiff said, recounting his first political campaign. “I ran again and I lost again. And I ran a third time and I was successful. If I had decided after the first time to just give up, I would have never had the opportunity to serve.”

There is no one single career path to public office, he added, noting that his colleagues come from a broad range of professional backgrounds.

“Life is short and elected office is a very quirky, fortuitous business,” Schiff said. “Sometime the opportunities come up right away, sometimes they don’t and you want to love what you are doing all along the way. Chances are, if you love what you are doing, you will be good at it.”